Tens of thousands of Massachusetts state pensions of up to $350,000 a year are straining the retirement system, forcing the Mass. Legislature to ask taxpayers for more cash to keep the system afloat.
A staggering 1,000-plus retirees earned $100,000 or more in pension pay last year — with former troopers, judges, provosts and school superintendents leading the way — with the total pension-fund liability at a budget-busting $5.21 billion.
It’s a trend one watchdog said is heading into the danger zone.
“These pensions are putting an enormous burden on the state budget,” said Greg Sullivan, a former state inspector general now with the Pioneer Institute. “It’s taking away money we need for roads, bridges and to fix the MBTA.”
Sullivan said the cost of footing the bill for these golden years has “skyrocketed” — forcing the Mass. Legislature to pump $2.4 billion into that budget in 2018. He warned that the tab for this liability will climb to $11 billion by 2033.
“This is such a serious problem,” Sullivan added, “it’s become almost unrealistic.”
Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration said a timeline has been set to get the pension system under control, but it will take years.
“The Baker-Polito Administration has made progress to pay down the commonwealth’s long-term obligations like the unfunded pension liability. Under the current statutory funding schedule the final amortization payment will be made in fiscal 2036, four years before the statutory requirement,” said Julie Mehegan, spokeswoman for the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Until then, retired parole officers, jail guards, librarians, chauffeurs and janitors will need the Legislature to keep the payments coming.